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Putin sends New Year’s letter to Trump as Mattis stands firm against Russian comments

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with Russian Defense Ministry top officials and representatives of the Russian Defense Industry, at Bocharov Ruchei residence. (Klimentyev Mikhail/TASS /ZUMA Press/TNS)
December 31, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a Christmas and New Year’s letter to U.S. President Trump indicating he wants a better working relationship between the two countries.

Putin wants a more constructive dialogue because he considers it essential for global stability CNN reported.

Putin said the two countries could develop a “pragmatic cooperation aimed at long-term perspective” on the basis of “equality and mutual respect.”

The letter also noted that “the development of a constructive Russian-U.S. dialogue is particularly important for strengthening strategic stability in the world and finding the optimal answers to global threats and challenges.”

The letter comes after the past few years have seen U.S.-Russian relations sour due to Putin invading and annexing Crimea in 2014, mounting evidence the Russians shot down a Malaysian passenger airliner, Russian interference in other nations’ sovereignty in the region, and Russia’s apparent deliberate interference in American elections.

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The U.S. has sanctioned Russian businesses and officials due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continuing interference in Ukraine’s stability by supporting Russian nationalist rebel groups in Ukraine.

During the 2016 presidential election President Trump spoke well of Putin and committed to rebuilding a frayed relationship with Russia.

Putin’s spokesperson said the frayed relationship with the U.S. was Putin’s “disappointment of the year.”

The U.S. relationship with Ukraine, a Russian neighbor, continues to be a sore spot for Russia as the U.S. gets ready to sell Ukraine weapons to defend itself against any incursion.

Secretary of Defense Mattis said on Friday that, “As long as no one wants to invade Ukraine, hopefully it won’t have any big impact,” Mattis said. “They’re defensive weapons.”

Moscow spoke out about the new U.S.-Ukraine deal saying it “crossed a line” and was “clearly pushing [Ukraine] towards new bloodshed.”

Radio Free Europe expanded on the situation:

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“The United States has not specified what new weapons it will provide to Ukraine, but U.S. media reports have said they could include Javelin antitank missiles, which Ukraine has urged the United States to supply.

Mattis said providing new weapons for Ukraine does not signal any plan to expand the U.S. presence there, despite speculation that the move will force the United States to get more deeply involved in the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people since it broke out in 2014.

“I don’t see an evolving U.S military role in Ukraine,” he said. “Right now, we have some trainers there helping to train their army to NATO standards, and that has a lot to do with making certain it serves the needs of the Ukrainian people, in the way democracies’ armies do.”

Mattis said the number of U.S. military trainers in Ukraine has not changed in the last six months. “So the U.S. military role remains the same,” he said.”